Diagnosis: Human

Posted on April 25, 2012 by


My family of origin has been and is still being touched by the ravages of mental illness. I know that it exists. It’s a serious issue and one that deserves to be treated with an appropriate level of seriousness. I would never do otherwise.

This is precisely why I am particularly annoyed with the proliferation of doctors and mental health professionals diagnosing and medicating behavior typical of fallen humanity. It just creates another reason for people to not take responsibility for their actions, health, and emotional well being. They can’t help what they’ve done, because it’s an illness.

When boys do what boys do, it’s a disorder worthy of medication to make them sit still in a drug-induced stupor so the teacher can continue to teach multiplication tables in a boring and dull manner rather than find a way to actually engage her students. Diagnosis: Hyperactivity Disorder. Treatment: Ritalin.

When a teenage daughter is overwhelmed working through finding herself in a world where the voices of the culture leave her confused while her mother is unavailable to help her, it’s a condition. Diagnosis: Depression. Treatment: Prozac.

It used to be that when a person was shy or had trouble meeting new people, they had to work through it. Maybe they were just introverted by nature and prefer their own company. However, we live in a busy world now, one where you need to get out there and make things happen. Shy and introverted people don’t do well in this culture, so they need treatment in order to cope. Diagnosis: Social Anxiety Disorder. Treatment: Paxil.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are all kinds of aberrant behavior being diagnosed as disorders and syndromes, most identified as personality disorders. Again, this isn’t a dismissal of the realities of mental illness. I know too much about it to be callous or naive. Still, a cursory glance at the lengthy number of disorders on Psychology Central’s website can easily leave one with the thought that every one we know has a personality disorder of some sort. I may have had at least 3. That’s a joke I think. Sort of.  Well, no it isn’t. A look at a few of these is in order.

  • Antisocial personality disorder:” Antisocial personality disorder is a mental health condition in which a person has a long-term pattern of manipulating, exploiting, or violating the rights of others. This behavior is often criminal.” Sounds like Congress. Break out 535 white coats. Well make that 533 since I’m willing to give Ron and Rand Paul a pass- for now.
  • Avoidant Personality Disorder: “Avoidant personality disorder is a mental health condition in which a person has a lifelong pattern of feeling very shy, inadequate, and sensitive to rejection.” This characterized me from as early as I can remember up until I was about 25 years old. I was already a wife of 3 years when I snapped out of it and got a clue. Having a house full of little ones, a husband who calls you out on your nonsense, and the desperation to pray for perspective does wonders to snap one out her personal bubble of selfish, self-centered misery. No medication was required. Just the kind of relational support and accountability that God designed us to live with.
  • Histrionic Personality Disorder: “Histrionic personality disorder is a condition in which people act in a very emotional and dramatic way that draws attention to themselves.” I have my own name for this. I think I’ll call it Western Womanhood. I think suffered with this one, too. Again a heavy dose of accountability, relationships with sane people and prayer did wonders to turn down the volume. No drugs, no professional couch required.
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder: “Narcissistic personality disorder is a condition in which people have an inflated sense of self-importance and an extreme preoccupation with themselves.” I’m trying to figure out if there is anyone who doesn’t have to fight this tendency besides those who are caring for sick loved ones or a special needs child. And I’m serious. Isn’t extreme selfishness a part of the human condition? Certainly some people are more narcissistic than others. I guess the dividing line between those with the disorder and those without is whether or not you care enough about being in relationship with other people to check yourself at least sometimes.
  • Dependent Personality Disorder: “Dependent personality disorder is a long-term (chronic) condition in which people depend too much on others to meet their emotional and physical needs.” I was too avoidant to ever have suffered with this one to any degree and thank God because apparently I’m screwed up enough.

It’s ridiculous that we have resorted to pinning a medical diagnoses on human sin and frailty in an attempt to make everyone feel okay with their manageable dysfunction. I’ll add here that it also absolves us of any neglect in our parenting and relationships when we diagnose people rather than hold them accountable.

Brokenness is a part of the human condition that can’t medicated away. You just have to work through your stuff and learn not to be a selfish, self-centered jerk. If you’re really blessed as I was, you’ll get better the way people used to: by being surrounded by folk who don’t reward your insanity.

If you take the time to look down the list and manage not to see yourself, pick up the phone today and tell your parents thank you. Send a card, a fruit basket, something. Seriously. They deserve it. And have ’em write a book too because I would be the first in line to buy it.

Posted in: Relationships